What is the Advanced Startup Options Menu?
Advanced Startup Options (ASO) is a centralized menu of recovery, repair, and troubleshooting tools in Windows 8. The ASO menu is also referred to as the Boot Options menu.
Advanced Startup Options replaced the System Recovery Options menu available in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Some sources still refer to Windows 8's Advanced Startup Options menu as System Recovery Options.
Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) is yet another name you might see that's synonymous with Advanced Startup Options.
What is the Advanced Startup Options Menu Used For?
The tools available from the Advanced Startup Options menu can be used to run almost all of the repair, refresh, reset, and diagnostic tools available in Windows 8 even if Windows won't start.
Advanced Startup Options also contains the Startup Settings menu which, among other things, is used to start Windows 8 in Safe Mode.
How To Access the Advanced Startup Options Menu
There are a number of ways to get to the Advanced Startup Options menu. The easiest way to access ASO depends on the situation you're in that's prompting the need to use one of these tools.
See How To Access Advanced Startup Options in Windows 8 for detailed instructions on each method.
Tip: If you can access Windows 8 normally, the quickest way to start Advanced Startup Options is from PC Settings -> General -> Advanced startup. Take a look at the tutorial I linked to above if that's not possible or you need more help.
How To Use the Advanced Startup Options Menu
Advanced Startup Options is just a menu of tools - it doesn't itself do anything. Choosing one of the available tools or other menus from Advanced Startup Options will open that tool or menu.
In other words, using Advanced Startup Options means using one of the available repair or recovery tools.
Tip: Some items available from Advanced Startup Options are nested inside of other menus. If you need to back up, use left arrow with the circle around it which you'll find to the left of the menu heading at the top of the screen.
The Advanced Startup Options Menu
Below is every icon or button you'll see on the Advanced Startup Options menu in Windows 8.
If the menu item leads to another area of the menu, I'll explain that. If it starts some recovery or repair feature, I'll give a short description and link to more detailed information on that feature if I have it.
Note: If you've configured a dual-boot system, you may also see Use another operating system (not shown here) on the main Advanced Startup Options menu.
Continue is available on the main Choose an option screen and says Exit and continue to Windows 8.1.
When you choose Continue, Advanced Startup Options will close, your computer will restart, and Windows 8 will start in normal mode.
Obviously if Windows 8 isn't starting properly, the very fact that brought you to Advanced Startup Options, heading right back into Windows probably won't be helpful. However, if you found yourself on the ASO menu some other way, or are done with some other repair or diagnostic process, Continue is the quickest way out of Advanced Startup Options and back to Windows 8.
Use a device
Use a device is available on the main Choose an option screen and says Use a USB drive, network connection, or a Windows recovery DVD.
When you choose Use a device, a menu by that name appears, allowing you to boot from the various sources on your computer that are shown.
Note: Only UEFI systems will have a Use a device option on Advanced Startup Options.
Troubleshoot is available on the main Choose an option screen and says Refresh or reset your PC, or use advanced tools.
The Troubleshoot option opens up yet another menu, containing the Refresh your PC, Reset your PC, and Advanced options items, all of which I discuss below.
The Troubleshoot menu is where all of the repair and recovery features found in Advanced Startup Options are located and is what you'll want to choose if you want to do anything other than exit the ASO menu.
Note: On UEFI systems, you may also have a UEFI Firmware Settings option (not shown here) on the Troubleshoot menu.
Turn off your PC
Turn off your PC is available on the main Choose an option screen.
This option completely powers off your PC or device.
Refresh your PC
Refresh your PC is available from the Troubleshoot screen and says If your PC isn't running well, you can refresh it without losing your files.
The Refresh your PC option starts Refresh Your PC, the process of non-destructively reinstalling Windows 8. Your saved files, personalization settings, and Windows Store apps all remain. Any non-Windows-Store installed programs will be removed and PC settings will be defaulted.
Refresh Your PC is a fantastic fix-it tool if other troubleshooting hasn't fixed a problem or even if your PC or device is just running slow and you'd like to start over, keeping all of your data.
If you're familiar with Windows XP, Refresh Your PC is similar in some respects to the Repair Install process that was available in that operating system.
Reset your PC
Reset your PC is available from the Troubleshoot screen and says If you want to remove all of your files, you can reset your PC completely.
The Reset your PC option starts Reset Your PC, the process of removing all of the apps, programs, and data from your computer. If you can, you should return to Windows and backup whatever data you'd like to keep. Reset Your PC is like doing a "factory reset" on your PC.
Reset Your PC is likely to fix just about any Windows 8 problem but be sure to try Refresh Your PC first since it's less destructive.
Reset Your PC replaces the need, in almost all cases, to completely reinstall the operating system. Without Reset Your PC, you would have to complete a Windows 8 Clean Install as a last-resort option to fix a major problem.
Advanced options is available from the Troubleshoot screen.
The Advanced options option opens up yet another menu which contains the following items: System Restore, System Image Recovery, Startup Repair, Command Prompt, and Startup Settings, all of which I explain below in their own sections.
The Advanced options menu is most similar to the System Recovery Options menu found in earlier versions of Windows.
System Restore is available from the Advanced options screen and says Use a restore point recorded on your PC to restore Windows.
The System Restore option starts System Restore, the same time-machine-like "undo" tool you may have used or seen from within Windows.
A huge advantage of having the ability to use System Restore from the Advanced Startup Options menu is that you're doing so from outside of Windows 8.
For example, if you suspect some driver or registry issue is preventing Windows 8 from starting properly, but find yourself in the unfortunate situation of not being able to start Windows to then start System Restore, this option becomes very valuable.
System Image Recovery
System Image Recovery is available from the Advanced options screen and says Recover Windows using a specific system image file.
The System Image Recovery option starts the Re-image your computer feature of System Image Recovery which is used to restore a previously-saved complete image of your computer.
This is a great option if you've unsuccessfully tried other tools available on the Advanced Startup Options menu. Of course to use this, you or your computer maker must have proactively created a system image to re-image from.
Startup Repair is available from the Advanced options screen and says Fix problems that keep Windows from loading.
The Startup Repair option starts, you guessed it, an automated startup repair procedure. If Windows 8 isn't starting properly, like due to a BSOD or a "missing file" error, Startup Repair is an excellent first troubleshooting step.
Early versions of Windows 8 referred to Startup Repair as Automatic Repair.
Command Prompt is available from the Advanced options screen and says Use the Command Prompt for advanced troubleshooting.
Most commands that are available from the Command Prompt in Windows are also available in the Command Prompt included here as part of Advanced Startup Options.
Important: When using the Command Prompt from Advanced Startup Options, be sure to verify the correct drive you're executing commands on. In most Windows installations, the drive Windows 8 is installed on is designated as C while inside Windows 8 but as D while in the ASO menu. This is because the C drive letter is given to a 350 MB system reserved partition that's normally hidden when you're in Windows, leaving D to be assigned to the drive Windows 8 is installed on.
Startup Settings is available from the Advanced options screen and says Change Windows startup behavior.
The Startup Settings menu is most similar to the Advanced Boot Options menu in previous versions of Windows.
Note: Startup Settings is not available from Advanced Startup Options when accessed in certain ways. If you don't see Startup Settings but need access to the startup modes on that menu, see How To Start Windows 8 in Safe Mode for help.
Advanced Startup Options Menu Availability
The Advanced Startup Options menu is available in Windows 8.